Nigerian soldiers serving in the region reportedly impregnates teenagers and abandons them after their redeployment.
In a report by AFP, published on PUNCH, 18 year old Ummi H., who was few weeks away from giving birth, said she “was in love with a soldier who got me pregnant.”
“He was redeployed when I was two months pregnant,” she told AFP in Borno.
She explained that she and her army lover kept in touch by telephone and she hoped to join him one day to bring up their baby in the economic capital Lagos, 1,200 kilometres (760 miles) away in the southwest.
But she said her dreams were crushed when he refused to provide money for her antenatal care.
“I don’t have food to eat, I only eat what I get from friends,” she added.
According to Ahmed Bolori, the coordinator of a local charity Fa’ash Foundation, the teenager was one of “hordes” of young women seduced by soldiers sent to the Northeast to fight Boko Haram.
“A lot of young women have been impregnated by military officers who take advantage of these women. Before the pregnancy is detected, the military officer is posted to another place and he cannot be traced,” he said.
Another 18 year old, Kaltime A. also said that the father of her son was also a soldier who had given her money to abort the pregnancy. “I was four months pregnant when he left and I don’t know where he is now. His phone is not reachable.”
Amina M.’s soldier boyfriend was redeployed to Northern Borno state when she was three months pregnant with her son, Umar. Now aged two, the toddler has never seen his father.
“His colleague took me to Konduga (37 kilometres, 23 miles from Maiduguri) to see him but I was told he had been redeployed to Gwoza 90 kilometres away. It was dangerous for me to go to Gwoza at the time because of Boko Haram, which made me come back and accept my fate,” she explained.
Bolori explained that the abandoned women are also victims of the Boko Haram menace. The insurgency has led to the death of over 20,000 and made more than 2.6 million homeless in the Northeast since 2009.
The three women talked of futile attempts to force their boyfriends to take responsibility, visits to the men’s superiors, being brushed off with excuses and having to survive on charity.
“They are invariably poor, hungry and uneducated which make them ready prey for the soldiers. Impunity also emboldens the perpetrators who go unpunished,” Bolori said.
“The government is not doing enough to protect displaced women and girls and ensure that they have access to basic rights and services or to sanction the abusers, who include camp leaders, vigilante groups, policemen, and soldiers,” a statement by the group read.
The group said that it documented 43 cases of sexual abuse, including rape and exploitation, of 43 women and girls living in seven internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
“Four of the victims told Human Rights Watch that they were drugged and raped, while 37 were coerced into sex through false marriage promises and material and financial assistance. Many of those coerced into sex said they were abandoned if they became pregnant. They and their children have suffered discrimination, abuse, and stigmatization from other camp residents. Eight of the victims said they were previously abducted by Boko Haram fighters and forced into marriage before they escaped to Maiduguri,” the group added.
Kaltime also corroborated that report.
“There is hunger in Maiduguri, people don’t have food and have no money to buy anything to eat,” she added.
“This is why many young women like me end up sleeping with soldiers and getting pregnant because they are the ones with money to spend.”
Now the girls are facing discrimination and rejection from their families for supposedly bringing them dishonour by having a child outside wedlock.
Ummi and Kaltime said their parents kicked them out when they discovered the pregnancies. Ummi moved in with friends while Kaltime went to her godmother’s.
Amina still lives with her parents but says their attitude towards her has changed and she is no longer treated with love and affection.
“In our culture unwanted pregnancies are really unwanted,” said Bolori, warning of the need to accept the children regardless of the manner of their birth. “The danger is that the children born by these sex victims will grow to be more dangerous than Boko Haram if discrimination against them is not checked,” Bolori added.